Adding to my PREVIOUS POST, here is an Admissions Portfolio from a fellow Archi Student friend of mine:

This portfolio was submitted by Rachael Dippel. Rachaelwas accepted into the University of South Florida School of Architecture + Community Design for the Fall of 2014. 


Many of you ask about how to do a portfolio, what to put in it, where to go for inspiration, ect. I have added a tag on my blog for portfolio tips HERE, but I think what most people don’t grasp is that you don’t have to have some crazy extravagant graphic design to your theme to make it into a program. 

Your portfolio is like a stationary gallery of your work. The pages should start blank, and be used as a canvas. Your projects are the artwork, and you are the artist putting the work on the page. If you look at the way Rachael set up her portfolio, you will see how simple the design can be. Talking less about her physical work, and more about the design of the portfolio itself, here are a few of my observations about her admissions portfolio:


The layout is so clean that you literally just look at the work on display and nothing else. The pages have very few images on them so you can focus on one thing at a time. With that being said, this kind of layout leaves no room for hiding. So your work, no matter what it is, should be high quality. It is important to have high quality images of your work, both physical and digital.


I think keeping a theme is important in a portfolio because it gives you some guidelines when putting your work together.  You can tell in Rachael’s portfolio that she has a certain way she lays out images. She has Big Single Images on one side, and Small Supporting Images hugging an opposite edge. Sometimes there are more supporting images than others, but if you look, across the board she uses a similar style and ratio/proportion.


It is easy to put images on a page, but then lining them up is where the real magic happens. Align the images with SOMETHING! You don’t have to use a grid, but make everything on the page relate to one another. You should almost see invisible lines between images and text. 


This portfolio has a good range of skill-sets shown. From this portfolio you can tell that Rachael can build models with a wide range of materials, create hand sketches and drafted drawings of her work, use computer programs like photoshop (& possibly Indesign), and is also an artist with a wide range of graphic utensils. 


Some portfolios are are greyscale, other use A LOT of color, but whatever you decide to do, be consistent. You can see here that color was used sparingly, and when it was used, it was important.

As you move forward and begin getting your feet wet towards getting into Architecture School, make sure you are keeping your portfolio in mind. I hate when people work on something they think is a “throw away” project when it could be an amazing work to put in your portfolio.

Hopefully this also gives you a little more perspective on what an Introductory Portfolio looks like for applying to Architecture School.

If this post gets enough notes, I will consider doing an interview with Rachael about her process from High School to Acceptance into the program. I think it will be super helpful, but I want to make sure there is enough interest.

Thanks for reading! I hope this helps some of you on your journey.


Mark, tipsforarchitectureschool

A special thanks goes out to my friend Rachael Dippel. Thank you for letting us use your awesome portfolio as an example. I think it will help some people get a better idea of what to do preparing for college.

Thanks Homegirl !!!  :)

12 Tips For Making an Outstanding Architecture Portfolio

Getting a job or internship at an architecture firm doesn’t only depend on your skills as an architect (or student). The way you present your skills plays an essential role. At a time of great professional competitiveness and with resumes becoming more globalized, assembling a portfolio may seem like a chore and often very involving: Which projects do I list? What personal information do I add? Should I include my academic papers in professional portfolios?

Brazilian architect Gabriel Kogan has shared with us a list of twelve tips on how to build a good architectural portfolio, ranging from graphic design to the type of personal information and content that should be included in your resume. Read his guidelines after the break, and if you have any other tips share them with us in the comments section.

1. Just Say “No” to Stand Alone Resumes

Never (ever EVER) just send your resume without a portfolio of your work. That’s rule number one, without a doubt. Plain text resumes are rarely looked at and won’t stand out when compared to others. Where you graduated from is much less important than your actual ability in the profession.

2. Your Portfolio’s Presentation is Just as Important as Its Content

Visual composition can make or break your portfolio. This shows your grasp of an essential skill: graphic design. Even portfolios with amazing projects tend to be overlooked or become invisible when compared to ones with more attractive presentation. Very cluttered pages can hide content. The images need to breathe. Do not overload your portfolio with a lot of information to make it look more full: the more concise and attractive the layout, the better. Usually the people looking over these documents  can tell what information is relevant and what is just filler. The font, margins, structure and proportion of a page say a lot about your ability as an architect as well.

3. Include Lots of Personal Information

An architect’s work is multidisciplinary. For virtually every practicing architect it is important to have general knowledge that transcends the technical design or building project. Personality is critical to the job. If your poems are good, if your drawings are cool, if you write well, if you like art, if you take great photos; there is no reason to hide any of that in your architecture portfolio. Offices almost always seek architects who think for themselves. In addition, this information can make the portfolio more fun. They should also appear visually. Your photo ID or a selfie of a group of friends on the beach aren’t really appropriate, but a photo - even abstract - that shows your personality and how you present yourself  or represent your interests may add a nice touch: images that reflect, most importantly, your personality and your interests.

4. A Long Portfolio Isn’t Better Than a Short One

On the contrary. Some offices receive dozens of resumes a day and so it is important to be short and sweet; straight to the point. Portfolios with lots of pages are rarely looked at fully.  Put your best projects first. Close with something attractive too, but the first impression is the one that counts. If you have many projects that you think are good, don’t put them all; only the best of the best. Mediocre projects - ones you aren’t proud of or have any  doubts about - leave out, they may have mattered to you, but don’t hang on. It’s better to have two excellent projects than 10 average ones. It’s better to have two excellent projects than two excellent ones plus 8 mediocre ones. There is no rule for the number of pages, but a 40 page document already seems too long. Remember: at first the document will be looked at for no more than one minute before being passed on.

5. Choose Projects that Work with the Office’s Profile

You need to make slightly different portfolios for each place you’re applying to. Certain designs, for example, may suit some offices, but would get thrown out of another. Study the company, get to know little of their philosophy and create something unique for them. This doesn’t  mean that you shouldn’t include “unusual” projects. On the contrary, offices are usually very open to new architecture styles, as long as they are well-founded. Be careful not to mirror projects of the office where you’re trying to work. Few things are more annoying to an office to than to see a copy of a project or their “style”  in a portfolio they receive. Being original and thinking for yourself are fundamental characteristics.

6. Attach a PDF With a Maximum of 15 Mb

Online platform portfolios are not cool. Again, online platform portfolios are not cool. They’re always very slow and with interfaces that are difficult to navigate. It is important for the office keep the file on their server because in the future they may be interested in something that there was no opportunity for in the past. A PDF makes it easy to search your portfolio. Sites with their own domain and architectural visual programming can be very well received, but do not replace the old PDF. Google Drive and large file sending platforms should be avoided.

7. Make Your CV Page Appealing

Despite its limited importance compared to the works and images, the CV page should contain clear data. Which city do you live in? What languages ​​do you speak? What software do you use? This information can be placed in an exciting fashion, with infographics, for example. Your ID number, Social Security Number, marital status, home address and the like are irrelevant data and therefore don’t need to be included in an initial contact. But be sure to put information about foreign language! This is often a necessary skill for offices doing work abroad, and its absence could make your portfolio immediately eliminated.

8. Theoretical Projects

Nothing shows an architect’s potential better than theoretical and academic projects. University is the time to create the start of a portfolio and these works are worth a lot. Worth as much as real projects, by the way. Research on architectural history or the like, when fully developed, demonstrates fundamental knowledge for day-to-day projects. Demonstrate the intellect behind a process and more sophisticated analytical capabilities. Architecture is becoming more and more about research, therefore  a mastery of theory is crucial. It should be evident - obviously and succinctly - in the presentation of your work.

9. The Inclusion of Technical Drawings Can Help, but Can Also Distract

Submitting a portfolio isn’t that same as submitting construction drawings. You don’t need to explain everything thoroughly, with plans for all the floors and dozens of sections. But it’s important to get the general idea of ​​the project (the concept) and to show your skills. If you are called for an interview, then take something more detailed. Including many drawings, and particularly, many technical drawings, can only hold your portfolio back; It takes up valuable space. It can be charming, however, to include a 1: 1 or 1: 2 architectural detail that shows your attention to the construction and the precision of the design, but without exaggeration.

10. Duties for Each Project

Be clear and truthful about your contributions in each project. The real contributions! Even if you were an intern, put what you’ve really done, “detailing frames,” “preliminary project concepts,” “compatibility”, “supervisory work”, etc. This will show your actual experience. Architectural design is always a collective work and therefore, even on work of your own jobs, you probably didn’t do it alone. Be honest.

11. Cover Letters

The text in the body of the email is important. It should be brief and attractive. No big speeches. In any case, this is also an area to be a little less impersonal.  Honest and poetic letters are better than very formal letters. In fact, nothing sounds worse than formal letters. Unless you are trying to get into an office with hundreds or thousands of employees (in this case, all of the recommendations in this article don’t seem to work well in general). The famous letters of recommendation from other architects are falling out of favor. They’re almost always written by the architect himself  and just signed by the architect making the recommendation. These letters should only be included if the office asks for them within the process. Also, be careful not to forward the same e-mail to all offices that you intend to look for a job at. E-mails with “fwd” in the title or an open list of addresses are usually deleted before the process even begins.

12. Most Importantly, Always Tell the Truth

Don’t invent or exaggerate anything in your portfolio or resume. Honesty is the best policy. You can even get a job, but lose it afterwards because you lied. The truth comes out quickly. Just be yourself.

#72 Know How to Set Up An Intro Portfolio

It is time for you to start thinking about submitting a portfolio to get into architecture school, but you have NO IDEA what to do!!

Don’t Panic.  I’m here to help. :)

There are many different ways to make a portfolio, and I have already written about portfolios before in earlier posts, but I always like giving the same information in different ways, just in case you didn’t catch it the first time. ;)  Keep in mind that there are many different ways to create a good portfolio, but if you need some help getting started this will be a great place to start!

Before we get started I would just like to say that you should schedule plenty of time to design and complete your portfolio.  Just to give you some perspective, your timeframe from start to finish should take you anywhere from 3 to 6 months.  

Yes, go ahead and insert a big “WTF?!?!” here.  :)

With that being said, if you thought you were going to just throw this portfolio together in a week, this post will be pretty overwhelming.  So make sure you give yourself plenty of time.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your portfolio won’t be either.


:::: STEP ONE: Completion & Organization ::::

- Before you start developing your portfolio make sure all of your materials and projects are completed.  If all of your projects are complete, you can focus on pulling together a stronger, more professional portfolio.

- Take pictures of all of your models and constructs.  (There are many different ways to photograph your models, and that is a whole other can of worms I will write about in another tip, but make sure that you use a solid background with a sheet or some foam board to minimize the editing process in Photoshop or Lightroom later.)

- Get your images together.  Go on your computer and make a master folder of all of your work including sub-folders for each class/project. (This includes the pictures of your models as well as the digital work.)

- Some people will have work from classes, some will have personal work, some will have work from group projects; as long as it is your work, it is all good to organize and get ready for the ‘selection process’.

- Once you have everything organized, go through and pick out your BEST work.  I usually make a folder called ‘BEST’ within each project folder to place my best work.  Make sure to add a good variety of work that showcases multiple skills.  (Different drawing mediums/styles, models, a quilt you made one time by hand out of your grandmas old t-shirts, and more.  In the end, this portfolio will be a reflection of yourself.   

- Make a course list of the projects you want to include in your portfolio.  Lay everything out by project.

:::: STEP TWO: Picking a Size & Theme ::::

- Pick a Size.

- No seriously, pick a size.  Selecting the dimensions of your portfolio is one of the hardest things to do, but if you select your size early on, you will have a canvas to work within and it will make everything easier.  Some schools require an 8.5”X11” portfolio, but if your portfolio is bad ass enough, it doesn’t matter.  I used to always make my portfolios landscape @ 7.5”X6.5”, but over time I have been using a 7”X7” square.  Really just look at your work and decide what size would showcase it the best.  

- As a side note, remember that people will be holding this in their hands.  You want it to be a size that is comfortable and manageable. Make reading through your portfolio something that feels good physically as well as visually.

- Pick a theme/layout: Honestly, going online and looking at portfolios is one of the best ways to get inspiration for your theme.  You can also look at magazines, but portfolios will really help put things into perspective for you.

- You can alway just look through the ‘Architecture Portfolio’ tag on, but here are some of my favorites:

Ljiljana Vidovic

Derek Pirozzi

Tim Keepers

Niall Patterson

Vignesh Madhavan

* Most of these are portfolios from my Alma Mater: The USF School of Architecture + Community Design.  If you would like to see more work from my school, take a look at The ARCHive:

:::: STEP THREE: Table of Content ::::

- Your cover design will most likely come much later in the design process, but mapping out your ‘Table of Content’ in the beginning will help guide you through the sections of your new book.  It does not have to be finalized, in fact, it WILL change as you develop your portfolio, but having a guideline as you put your work together is very helpful.

** Remember, showcase ONLY your best work.  You need to catch attention quickly and there is a lot of competition out there.  In the first round of portfolio evaluations, the professors spend an average of 30 seconds looking through each portfolio to narrow them down.  Usually programs have a limited acceptance roster and you gotta make it into one of those spots!

** It is better to have a smaller amount of your best work than a huge/thick portfolio of everything you have ever done.  Imagine the sequence of your portfolio as a bridge: the beginning and end must be the strongest while the middle is filled with the remaining solid pieces of work.

:::: STEP FOUR: Content & Software ::::

- The portfolio and design of the entire book is up to you.  Make sure that whatever you do, it all reads as one holistic package and make sure the work is displayed very clean and straightforward.  Don’t try to get fancy with the graphic design, they want to see your work above all else.

- Before you begin with editing on the computer, navigate your way through the Adobe Software. Simply jumping into this expansive tool may become overwhelming, and it may take some time to learn how to utilize all of the features. If you need help, grab someone from your school or even a friend who is familiar with the software to assist you.

- It is good to know how to use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign.

- Adobe Photoshop :: This program allows you to basically do all of your editing.  Cropping photos and creating layers are very important to working with your design.  Also, remember to set up your colorspace as CMYK, not RGB.  You are going to print these files out later and this will ensure a higher quality when printing.

- Adobe InDesign :: This program is great for creating multi-page documents and will allow you to piece together all your spreads into one professional package. (Plus it exports your document very easily into one large .PDF file for printing and sharing.)

- If you are having trouble with these programs, use your sketchbook or graph paper to sketch and map out page layouts and outlines.  This can also save time to compare multiple ideas for layouts and sequencing.

- DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!!  If these programs are new to you they can be very difficult to use at first.  Honestly, trial and error is the best way to achieve the quickest results, so don’t feel frustrated when go through many different drafts.

- For more tips on content, read my earlier post HERE.

:::: STEP FIVE: Finalizing ::::

- As you begin to finalize your portfolio, seek outside opinions from anyone and everyone. Someone else’s eye may catch something that you missed and could lead you in a better direction.  (But be careful not to take too many ideas at one time, sift through the criticism and make sure your portfolio stays clean and within YOUR theme.)

- Use minimal text in your portfolio. If your visual work clearly defines your decisions, text may not even be necessary. With text, less is more. (However, If there is a text requirement, make sure to follow it.)

- With the text you do use, make sure it is grammatically correct and free of errors. Such errors can lead the wrong impression and negatively impact how you are seen as a student.

- As your portfolio progresses, take a step back to review your work. What are you missing? What needs to be modified? Make a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything as you finalize your work and don’t be afraid to also remove things if they are getting in the way.

- Your portfolio should be consistent!  Consistency is a very powerful tool in describing your work.  Colors, placement of text, image scale, and theme attributes all play a role in the consistency of your work.

- Your portfolio should be readable and easy to understand.  If an individual with no knowledge of architecture can follow your work, then you going in the right direction. (The Grandma Effect)

- Don’t be afraid of contributing creative work other than design projects.  Personal artwork, photography, and sketches define you as more than just an architectural design student.

:::: Stepping away from the design of the portfolio, here are some Portfolio Logistics that you might find helpful ::::

:::: SUPPLIES ::::

Computer - 500$ and up 

Printer/Scanner - $100-$200 

Digital Camera - 100$ and up

Adobe Creative Suite (student edition) - See if your friends have it!!

Printing Expenses approx. - $100-$200

All of the above will help you tremendously in creating your portfolio, and even though these are not required, and may seem expensive, the benefit you will gain from utilizing these supplies will justify the savings and sacrifices needed to purchase each.  (If you do not have access to these items, check your school computer lab or public library for rentals.)

:::: SUBMITTING ::::

When submitting your applications, be sure to pay attention to every detail, specifically in each of the requirements and deadlines with each. Applications, deadlines, transcripts, etc.. are all just as important to ensure that there is no bumps in the road.

Most universities require:

- Three letters of recomendation

- Transcripts

- Standardized test scores

- A letter of intent

- A portfolio of works

Some may require more, some less, but it is up to you to look at the requirements of the schools you apply to.

* Don’t limit your options! Apply to more than two schools as architecture programs are very competitive.

:::: FINAL NOTE ::::

The most important thing that I can tell you is simply show your process. This is the most important thing they are looking for in your work.  When you are given a project it is a problem, your process shows the steps you made to find a solution. This is one of the reasons architecture school is so demanding; it takes a lot of trial and error to find solutions to each problem through your design process.  Sometimes this takes multiple variations of the same model or drawing before you even get to a final design, but with this struggle, you clearly show why your final design looks like it does.  When you have a project, there is a visual storyline that shows how you got from point A to point B, and your process is the narrator.  If it is easy to see the decisions you made in your design process, then you’re doing something right. :)

Remember, anything worth doing isn’t easy.  Be prepared to make many sacrifices.  A lot of long days will turn into long nights and then into long weeks.  It is worth it I assure you, but the option to work at this is up to you and only you.  It is one of the most competitive majors you will ever find, but worth every penny, every minute, hour, day, week and year you commit to achieving your goal.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and certainly remember to manage your time correctly with everything you do.  Don’t forget to schedule in time for making mistakes either. Mistakes are all a part of the learning process, but take up much more time than if you did everything correct the first time.  It can be quite stressful, but know that mistakes are good if you learn from them, and the stress can be relieved if you schedule that time to fail.

For the sake of giving you somewarm-fuzzies, I wish you all the best of luck as you put your portfolio together, but remember that there is no such thing as luck.

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so prepare yourself accordingly, and when opportunity strikes, you will succeed.

…and don’t worry there will be plenty of time to sleep when you turn this thing in!!

Cheers!  :)

This post was written in part by Michael David Stallings, USF SA+CD.
12 Tips For Making an Outstanding Architecture Portfolio
Getting a job or internship at an architecture firm doesn't only depend on your skills as an architect (or student).
  1. Just Say “No” to Stand Alone Resumes 
  2. Your Portfolio’s Presentation is Just as Important as Its Content 
  3.  Include Lots of Personal Information 
  4. A Long Portfolio Isn’t Better Than a Short One 
  5. Choose Projects that Work with the Office’s Profile 
  6. Attach a PDF With a Maximum of 15 Mb 
  7. Make Your CV Page Appealing 
  8. Theoretical Projects 
  9.  The Inclusion of Technical Drawings Can Help, but Can Also Distract 
  10. Duties for Each Project 
  11. Cover Letters 
  12. Most Importantly, Always Tell the Truth

Image via

#32 Don’t be realistic.

Our minds have their way with us if we let them.  You have to allow yourself to forget what you “know” about architecture to begin learning how to think like an architect or designer.  Architecture school teaches you how to think more than anything else.  When you first get a project you may begin picturing the finished product in your head.  This might be an organic mixture of everything you believe to be “architecture” all put together.  Then you begin to make decisions based on these pre-concieved notion.  This can sometimes lead to getting yelled at for having a “flat base” or your model looking too much like a “HOME” in a simple spacial exercise.

Don’t worry, its not your fault.

But in order to truly grasp the concept of space-making and form, you must allow these pre-conceived notions to diminish to make room for creative application.  Don’t be realistic, you will have plenty of time for that later in your career.  For now, especially in the entry level position, try new things and get out of your confort zone!  Who knows, maybe you’ll like it.

Architecture students and graduates know that it’s not enough to simply do good work - half the challenge is communicating the work you do. The job search portfolio is probably one of our more stressful representational challenges. There’s a balance to strike between personality and professionalism, and you don’t want to wonder whether you didn’t send the message you intended.

In preparation for an upcoming work term I put together my first professional portfolio this summer and learned a few things along the way. I’m by no means an expert, but here are some of the things I’ve been told or complimented on thus far:

1. The cover is your first impression. You can go minimal, use elaborate patterns, or use a photo you’re particularly proud of, just know that it will say something about your style and interests. I chose a photo relevant to my interests in coastal architecture and repurposed materials, with colours I thought worked well together.

2. Resumes can come at the front or the back of your portfolio. In my case I paired it with a table of contents over a graphic which ties to the theme of my cover. The (lack of) colour here introduces the stark black and white scheme which I use throughout my portfolio.

3. When you get to your projects it helps to have a system. I first split my page spread into top and bottom, and then into three columns per page. This gave me some zones to work with. The three labelled above stayed the same on most of my pages while the others vary. Once you have a system you also learn how to break out of it - on some pages large images cross my guides, placing emphasis on them.

4. Think about print. If you ever plan to make physical copies of your portfolio there are a few things you should consider. First, standard sizes make for cheaper copies - mine is formatted for a letter sized page in landscape orientation. Second, printing to the edges of your page (full bleed) requires printing larger and cutting down. This can be costly and time-consuming, but can also be worth it. In my case I wanted to be able to make many copies, so I kept my graphics from the edges of the page (in most cases) and left room at the “spine” for binding.

In a few years I’m sure my portfolio will be very different than what you see here, both in content and style, but for now I’m very happy with it. Good luck!

External image


I always find it useful, around half way through a design project, to return to your field trip photos or initial sources of inspiration. In the case of this project it was Zaha Hadid’s Maxxii Museum in Rome that became the perfect resource in developing my floor plans further into more fluid spaces that promoted movement within the architecture.

#33 What do you want for your birthday?  BOOKS.

Invest in some books.  While the internet does provide as an excellent place to research and look things up, a book provides a different experience which is more autotelic in nature.  There are also things in books which you cannot find on the internet and NEVER WILL.  The personal library you construct over time should consist of books that inspire you and have pictures and articles which make you think.  You can also physically trace out of books which is an excellent way to practice drawing.  Tracing and copying from books is one of the quickest ways to yield efficient habits when learning how to illustrate.  “But isn’t that plagiarism?”  It is only plagiarism if you copy something and call it your own.  In fact, Hunter S. Thompson once re-typed the Great Gatsby to see how it felt to type a novel. 

So books are great in many ways, and 10 years from now when the web hosting for the site you “bookmarked” a great image you liked has been long expired, you will still have that book you thought you would “never use so much”.  

3 things to always do with your books:

  1. Reference them.
  2. Write in them.
  3. Pass them down to people who can really use them.  Trust me, you will know when and who to give it to when the time comes.
Architecture admissions portfolio

Questions from Christina graduating with a bachelors in sociology. She started in architecture, moved out of the major and is thinking about applying for a masters degree in architecture.

What should I include in my portfolio? What do people look for in portfolios for architecture school without having any background in architecture?

Content for a portfolio might include hand drawings and sketches on paper and mylar, pencil work, pen work, renderings, paintings, collages, mechanical drafting, computer drafting, photographs, & sculpture.  The important point here is that the work displays your creativity, not that its just architectural.  The second thing to keep in mind is that the work should give the person who’s looking at it a sense about who you are.  That is, your creativity, your focus, what are you good at? and what do you enjoy? Here are two links as well. How to make a portfolio video series by yours truly. Portfolio Design by Harold Linton.

How can I use my background in sociology to help me develop my portfolio?

Great question. The answer is, I don’t know precisely. However, I do know that you must like sociology or you wouldn’t have chosen the major. There are insights that you posses regarding the profession (and people) that others would probably enjoy hearing. I would suggest photographs, sketches, text, poems, literature, and even video that you have created. Take a week and work on it. Put every idea you have on paper and work through it. “It’s in the doing that the idea comes.”

I have heard many people suggest that I wait a couple years to apply for graduate school. I have been told that it is always best to go out into the world and gain experience as well as take the time to mature as an individual before going back to graduate school. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Absolutely yes! Wait, get experience, test the waters and then go back to school. Life is short, however it can also be quite long if you hate what you do and have an extraordinary amount of debt.

FYI. The image above is not Christina but an image I found on flickr using the search term ‘pretty girl’. It could be Christina but the odds are against it. Image by liquene.